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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 18, 2014, 10:04:52 AM
My intended point was that there are people who were there before this administration and who will be there after this administration , , ,
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Putin: BRICs key element of emerging multi-polar world on: July 17, 2014, 11:30:36 PM
second post

Putin's take...

BRICS key element of emerging multipolar world – Putin
Published time: March 22, 2013 04:55
Edited time: March 22, 2013 08:05

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds hopes that the BRICS group of emerging economies will turn into “a full-scale strategic cooperation mechanism” and become more involved in global politics.

Putin gave an interview to the ITAR-TASS news agency ahead of the March 26-27 BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa. Apart from Russia, the bloc consists of Brazil, India, China and the host country.

ITAR-TASS: BRICS' relatively new phenomenon attracts increased global attention due to the optimistic predictions about its development, especially against the backdrop of global crisis developments in the world economy. What is BRICS' immediate and long-term significance for Russia? Is such a format practical for the development of relations among these countries?

Vladimir Putin: There are a number of long-term factors working on BRICS' success. For the last two decades the economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have been in the lead of global economic growth. Thus, in 2012, the average GDP growth rate in the group amounted to 4 per cent, while for the G7 this index was estimated at 0.7 per cent. In addition, GDP of the BRICS countries derived from the national currency purchasing power parity is currently over 27 per cent of the global GDP and its share continues to increase.

BRICS is a key element of the emerging multipolar world. The Group of Five has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to the fundamental principles of the international law and contributed to strengthening the United Nations central role. Our countries do not accept power politics or violation of other countries' sovereignty. We share approaches to the pressing international issues, including the Syrian crisis, the situation around Iran, and Middle East settlement.
Brazilian President Dilma Roussef(L to R), Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Hu Jintao and South African President Jacob Zuma pose during a BRICS's Presidents meeting in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico on June 18, 2012.(AFP Photo / Roberto Stuckert Filho)
The BRICS’ credibility and influence in the world is translated into its growing contribution to the efforts to stimulate global development. This important matter will be specifically addressed at the BRICS Leaders – Africa Dialogue Forum to be held on the sidelines of the Durban summit.

BRICS members advocate the creation of a more balanced and just system of global economic relations. The emerging markets are interested in long-term sustainable economic growth worldwide and reforms of the financial and economic architecture to make it more efficient. This is reflected in last year's joint decision to contribute $75 billion to the IMF lending program, thus increasing the participation of the fastest growing economies in the Fund's authorized capital.

Russia, as the initiator of the BRICS format and chair at its first summit in Yekaterinburg in 2009, sees the work within this group among its foreign policy priorities. This year, I have approved the Concept of the Russian Federation's Participation in the BRICS group, which sets forth strategic goals we seek to achieve through interaction with our partners from Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

Such cooperation in international affairs, trade, capital exchange and humanitarian sphere facilitates the creation of the most favourable environment for further growth of Russian economy, improvement of its investment climate, quality of life and well-being of our citizens. Our membership in this association helps foster privileged bilateral relations with the BRICS nations based on the principles of good neighbourliness and mutually beneficial cooperation. We believe it crucial to increase Russia's linguistic, cultural and information presence in the BRICS member nations, as well as expand educational exchanges and personal contact.

ITAR-TASS: What are the group’s short-term objectives and how do you see strategic directions for BRICS' economic development?

VP: BRICS identifies what is to be done based on action plans adopted at the group's annual summits. Last year's Delhi Action Plan outlined 17 areas of cooperation, including meetings of Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, joint meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on the sidelines of the G20, World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, as well as contacts between other agencies.

We are currently negotiating a new plan we will discuss at the meeting in Durban. I am confident that it will help us develop a closer partnership. We expect that we will be able to closer coordinate our approaches to key issues on the agenda of the forthcoming G20 summit in St Petersburg, increase our cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking and production, and our efforts to counter terrorist, criminal and military threats in cyberspace.

It is of great importance for Russia to increase its trade and investment cooperation with its BRICS partners and launch new multilateral business projects involving our nations’ business communities. In Durban we intend to announce the formal establishment of the BRICS Business Council designed to support that activity. The summit will be preceded by the BRICS Business Forum, which will bring together more than 900 business community representatives from our countries.

ITAR-TASS: The potential of the BRICS economies brings up not only the question of economic policy coordination but also that of close geopolitical interaction. What is BRICS' geopolitical role and mission in today's world? Does it go beyond the purely economic agenda and should the BRICS countries accept greater responsibility for geopolitical processes? What is their policy with regard to the rest of the world, including its major actors such as the United States, the European Union, Japan… What future do you see for this association in this regard?

VP: First and foremost, the BRICS countries seek to help the world economy achieve stable and self-sustaining growth and reform the international financial and economic architecture. Our major task is to find ways to accelerate global development, encourage flows of capital in real economy and increase employment. This is particularly important in the context of poor global economic growth rates and unacceptably high unemployment. Although this is mainly true of western countries, the BRICS states are also negatively affected; export markets are shrinking, global finance lacks stability, and our own economic growth is slowing down.

At the same time, we invite our partners to gradually transform BRICS from a dialogue forum that coordinates approaches to a limited number of issues into a full-scale strategic cooperation mechanism that will allow us to look for solutions to key issues of global politics together.

The BRICS countries traditionally voice similar approaches to the settlement of all international conflicts through political and diplomatic means. For the Durban summit, we are working on a joint declaration setting forth our fundamental approaches to pressing international issues, i.e. crisis in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.
We do not view BRICS as a geopolitical competitor to western countries or their organisations — on the contrary, we are open to discussion with any country or organisation that is willing to do so within the framework of the common multipolar world order.

ITAR-TASS: Russia and China are important strategic and historic partners. How do you see the significance of such partnership not only for the development of the two countries, but also for the entire system of international relations and the world economy?

VP: Russia and China are two influential members of the international community, they are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and they are among the world’s largest economies. That is why the strategic partnership between us is of great importance on both a bilateral and global scale.
Today the Russian-Chinese relations are on the rise, they are the best in their centuries-long history. They are characterised by a high degree of mutual trust, respect for each other's interests, support in vital issues, they are a true partnership and are genuinely comprehensive.

President of the People’s Republic of China is currently on a state visit to Russia. The fact that the new Chinese leader makes his first foreign trip to our country confirms the special nature of strategic partnership between Russia and China.

In the last five years only, the volume of bilateral trade has more than doubled. China has firmly taken the first place among our trading partners. In 2012 the Russian-Chinese trade turnover increased by 5.2 per cent to constitute $87.5 billion (in 2007 the figure was $40 billion).

The commonality of our approaches to fundamental issues of world order and key international problems has become an important stabilising factor in world politics. Within the framework of the UN, the Group of Twenty, BRICS, the SCO, APEC and other multilateral formats, we are working together, helping to shape a new, more just world order, ensure peace and security, defend basic principles of international law. That is our common contribution to strengthening sustainable global development.
Russia and China show an example of a balanced and pragmatic approach to solving the most critical issues, such as the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, situation around Iran’s nuclear program.

ITAR-TASS: Before the BRICS summit your schedule features a working visit to South Africa. What do you expect from the upcoming negotiations with South African party? Will this visit give impetus to the development of bilateral relations?

VP: Russia and South Africa have old ties of friendship and mutual respect. Multifaceted cooperation is developing between our countries, with constructive political dialogue established at the highest level, between governments, ministries and agencies. Interparliamentary, interregional, business and humanitarian contacts are consistently expanding.
During the visit to South Africa we certainly hope to give new impetus to our bilateral relations. The adoption of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Russia and South Africa is being prepared; it will confirm the new quality of our relations, determine key areas of joint work in the future. We plan to sign a number of important intergovernmental and interagency documents in Durban: the declaration on strategic partnership, the agreements on cooperation in the energy sector, agriculture, etc.
Trade and economic cooperation will be in the focus of our attention during negotiations. Last year the volume of trade between Russia and South Africa grew by 66 per cent and reached $964 million (in 2011 the figure was $580 million). Big Russian businesses, including such companies as Renova, Norilsk Nickel, Evraz Group, Basic Element, Severstal, Renaissance Capital and Vnesheconombank are actively entering the South African market, they are interested in further expanding their presence in South Africa.

Russia and South Africa can significantly, by many times, increase the volume of bilateral trade and investments, the number of mutually beneficial projects in the mining sector, power industry (including nuclear power), space exploration, military and technical sphere.

We consider it important to develop cooperation in the field of education and culture by strengthening direct ties between universities, promoting Russian language teaching in South African educational institutions, organising film festivals and tours by leading artists, and exchanging museum exhibitions.

We will discuss practical steps to achieve these goals with President Jacob Zuma.

103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese ambassador to India on new BRIC group on: July 17, 2014, 11:27:10 PM
Chinese ambassador's take on BRICS

Building BRICS
Wei Wei : Sat Mar 23 2013, 03:46 hrs   

The 5th BRICS summit is to be held in Durban, South Africa next week. The leaders of China and India will meet again on the sidelines of the summit. It is undoubtedly a good opportunity for the two BRICS members to enhance mutual trust and promote cooperation through high-level interactions.

As the two biggest developing countries and emerging economies, relations between China and India have exceeded the bilateral spectrum and assumed global and strategic dimensions. The BRICS mechanism not only serves as a platform for the China-India relationship to raise its global impact, but also helps advance bilateral ties. The leaders of China and India have maintained close contact within the BRICS mechanism. Last March, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met each other during the 4th BRICS summit. Meanwhile, senior representatives on security affairs, foreign ministers, finance ministers, governors of the central banks of the two countries also met and exchanged views on political, security, economic and trade cooperation under the BRICS framework. We have every reason to believe that closer personal connection will be forged through the meeting between the newly elected Chinese president and the Indian leader in Durban, which would significantly contribute to the mutual trust and bilateral relations between China and India.

Recent years have witnessed the ever-growing national strength of the BRICS countries. The BRICS countries increasingly speak with one voice on international affairs, enjoy higher international standing and make their presence felt in a larger way globally. Now, the five BRICS countries account for 42 per cent of the global population, make up more than 20 per cent of the world GDP and contribute more than half of the world's economic growth. It is also noteworthy that the larger share the BRICS have in the world economy, the more important cooperation among the BRICS members will become. Currently, the BRICS countries are the world's largest market. Each has its own competitive edge in different areas. Some are blessed with abundant natural resources, while others are taking leading roles in manufacturing, IT, biotechnology, telecommunications and aerospace. Among the five BRICS members, China and India are especially complementary in their economies. In this sense, the two should fully tap the huge potentials and deepen substantial cooperation in various fields so as to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples.

The BRICS countries also play a positive role in addressing issues such as food and energy security, environmental protection and reforms in the global trade system and financial governance. The leaders of the BRICS countries exchange views on important topics relating to sustainable development and discuss possible cooperation areas. Working groups are established and action plans are made on future agricultural cooperation. They have also been working together to tackle climate change and other issues to safeguard the interests of the emerging economies and developing countries. Apart from seeking a larger say in the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international financial institutions, the BRICS countries are actively pushing for the establishment of new financial institutions of their own. In this regard, China, with the world's largest foreign exchange reserves and India, with a long history of financial services development, have plenty of opportunities for close cooperation and great accomplishment. We believe that closer cooperation within the BRICS in international finance will help put in place a more equitable and fair international economic and financial order. We believe that a strong manufacturing sector and large foreign-trade volumes still fall short of what we need. A greater say in international financial governance better serves our interests. To this end, deeper mutual trust and closer cooperation within the BRICS are needed.

China and India are faced with similar historical tasks and challenges to develop the economy and improve people's livelihood. Since last year, China and India have been conscientiously implementing the Delhi Declaration, which was agreed upon by the 4th BRICS Summit in India. As a result, we have yielded fruitful results in cooperation in economy, finance, trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. The meeting to be held between the newly elected Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian PM Manmohan Singh in the coming BRICS summit would surely further strengthen political mutual trust and deepen the China-India strategic cooperative partnership.

Last but not least, I sincerely wish the 5th BRICS summit great success. China will join hands with India to safeguard the fundamental interests of developing countries, promote solidarity and cooperation among the BRICS countries, and make unremitting efforts for world peace and prosperity.

The writer is Chinese ambassador to India

104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 17, 2014, 11:23:58 PM
Someone on our side is trying to pay attention.  The new, slightly expanded sanctions announced just before today's jetliner shoot down included the company that made the missile that did it. 

BTW, this missile reaches up to 72,000 feet altitude; this is not amateur stuff.
105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: July 17, 2014, 07:23:55 PM
Maybe if our Commander in Chief can break away from brie and crackers in the Hamptions while fundraising, he can announce giving something a tad more effective for fighting to the Ukrainians than MREs , , , tongue angry angry
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Music on: July 17, 2014, 05:51:42 PM
I saw him sit in with Electric Hot Tuna at the late show at the Fillmore East around 1970. 

I LOVE his rendition of Dylan's "Highway 61"!!!
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Origins of the ice cream truck song on: July 17, 2014, 03:51:43 PM
108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America', the D'Sousa Movie... on: July 17, 2014, 01:49:47 PM
Me too.
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli history in 11 minutes on: July 17, 2014, 01:47:59 PM
Hat tip to our MT
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 17, 2014, 01:42:48 PM
Note the part about Hezbollah's rockets being more powerful than Hamas's

Israel Watching Hizballah While Fighting a Cautious Battle With Hamas
by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
July 17, 2014

The 10th day of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) "Operation Protective Edge" featured a five-hour ceasefire to allow humanitarian supplies to reach people in Gaza. The ceasefire was violated by rocket launchers in Gaza, who fired three projectiles into Israeli regions in the south.

Before the ceasefire took effect, Hamas sent 13 heavily terrorists, carrying RPGs and AK-47 assault rifles through a tunnel from Gaza into Israel, where it is believed they wanted to attack a nearby kibbutz.

The IDF says it "neutralized the threat" and video it released shows the tunnel opening being blown up seconds after the terrorists were seen retreating back underground. It believes several members of the cell were harmed in the blast. No Israelis were hurt thanks to the IDF's readiness, but army sources said a massacre of civilians had been narrowly averted.

Unlike past conflicts with Hamas, this Israeli operation – which is aimed at extinguishing rocket fire on Israeli cities – is slow-paced and deliberate. This approach enables the security cabinet and military planners to carefully examine the developing situation, set targets, and decide on their next move without a great deal of pressure.

This atmosphere, considered conducive to decision-making during war, is possible thanks to the dazzling success of the Iron Dome air defense system (10 batteries are currently in operation – double the number that were deployed during Israel's 2012 clash with Hamas).

The conflict began when Hamas ignored Israeli demands to cease firing heavy rocket barrages last week, and continued when Hamas rejected an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire in recent days.

Israeli military sources say that Hamas initiated the conflict due its growing regional isolation, which began when Hamas's ideological twin and founding movement, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, was ejected from power in Egypt last year. Hamas' crisis has grown ever since. Through a conflict with Israel, Hamas hopes to ends its isolation, reenter the Palestinian mainstream as a "hero," and secure a cash flow for its 43,000 members on the payroll, or risk seeing its Gaza regime sink into a sea of anarchy and debt.

But Hamas' decision to launch a war against Israel has backfired. The Arab world has largely given it a cold shoulder, and Hamas' military wing in Gaza, the Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, is growing weaker by the day due to Israel's military blows.

Israel's Air Force and Navy have launched nearly 2,000 strikes on Hamas and Islamic targets in this operation, delivering a series of painful strikes, and knocking out many underground rocket launchers. An estimated 3,000 rockets (a third of Gaza's arsenal) have been destroyed, as well as command and control centers, while around 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad field operatives have been killed.

Several tunnels dug by Hamas, earmarked for future attacks on the Israeli border, or for sending gunmen and suicide bombers under the border into southern Israel to carry out a killing spree among civilians, also have been destroyed.

Israel has thus far focused its efforts on deterring Hamas from continuing the fight. But faced with Hamas's insistence on continuing the conflict, Jerusalem may now be contemplating going beyond deterrence, and targeting all of Hamas's military assets for destruction.

While Israel's firepower has been highly effective, Hamas' has been the opposite, due in large part to the Iron Dome air defense system. Hamas and other organizations fired 1,400 rockets into Israel since the start of the operation. Of those, Iron Dome knocked out 272 that were heading toward high-population centers. More than 1,000 rockets fell in open, sparsely populated areas, and a few caused heavy damage to Israeli homes and injuries. One man was killed Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the constant barrages of rockets disrupt daily life in Israel, terrorizing its civilians and sends them fleeing for shelter every time an air raid siren goes off.
Hamas has fired on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem repeatedly, and even fired long-range rockets, with ranges of 150 kilometers, at northern Israel.

As the fighting continues, Israel is amassing 56,000 ground troops on the border with Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu edges closer to ordering a ground offensive.

The IDF is preparing to encounter urban warfare, combat in underground tunnels, and terrorist cells armed with anti-tank missiles and automatic weapons that lie in wait.
Air power alone is not enough to achieve a fallout victory. Many of Hamas' nerve centers and rocket launching infrastructure are hidden deep underneath civilian buildings – targets that Israel refuses to strike for fear of harming Palestinian noncombatants.

As Hamas insists on continuing the conflict, the IDF is prepared to move to a new stage in its operation, aimed at systematically destroying what remains of its offensive capabilities.

Even in the midst of the fighting, the IDF is keeping a close watch on Hizballah in Lebanon, acutely aware that Hizballah is returning the same watchful gaze.  On the one hand, Hizballah is likely highly aware of the fact that the IDF dropped heavy bombs on the homes of Hamas's battalion and brigade commanders – structures that doubled up as command centers. The message to Hizballah seems clear – it, too, will face devastating firepower in the event of a conflict and its attempt to plant assets in the middle of civilian neighborhoods will not prevent that outcome.

Hamas and Hizballah are both experts at guerrilla-terrorist asymmetrical warfare, and both convert densely-populated civilian regions into rocket bases. They convert mosques and residential buildings into command and control centers, and bunkers dug under homes into rocket storage facilities.

But the similarities end there.

In terms of firepower, Hizballah's rocket arsenal is more than 10 times greater than Gaza's.

With 100,000 rockets in Hizballah's possession, including missiles with warheads of hundreds of tons, which have ranges of several hundred kilometers, the current pattern of conflict between Hamas and Israel cannot be replicated by Jerusalem in the event of a full-scale clash with Hizballah.

Some of Hizballah's projectiles can bring down whole buildings.

Israel does not have enough air defenses to cope with Hizballah's rocket onslaught, and the David's Sling system, designed to shoot down heavy Hizballah rockets, is not operational. Even if that changed, Israel's defense budget would not allow for the creation of sufficient numbers of interceptor missiles to deal with the level of firepower that Hizballah has amassed. According to Israeli estimates, the Lebanese terror organization is number five in the world in terms of its firepower (Israel is number two).
This means that Israel would have to rely on a far stronger offense against Hizballah than the one it has employed so far against Hamas.

Attacks would be characterized by a massive wave of air strikes, in which thousands of targets are destroyed every day. Israeli ground forces would likely be ordered to launch an immediate offensive aimed at seizing southern Lebanon, and put out the rocket fire.

As Israel prepares its next move against Hamas, it knows that a far larger and more dangerous enemy to the north is observing its every move, and searching for weaknesses.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post's military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books),
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A glimmer of hope? on: July 17, 2014, 01:09:31 PM
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tennis Anyone? on: July 17, 2014, 01:06:26 PM 
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Keep up the bad work! on: July 17, 2014, 12:57:22 PM
Social Security Insolvent, Voters Say 'Do Nothing'

The main driver of the ballooning federal debt is wealth transfer payments. Indeed, more than two-thirds of the federal budget is money that goes from one taxpayer's pocket into someone else's. Some of this is naked wealth redistribution, like food stamps and other welfare. But much of it is what some call "earned" payments, like Social Security and Medicare -- money that has been taken from workers' paychecks for decades with the promise of a retirement return. The solvency of these programs, however, is in jeopardy.

Social Security already runs an annual deficit -- about $200 billion this year -- which will only grow worse as fewer workers support more retirees. From the start, politicians have raided the Social Security "trust fund" and spent the money on other general fund projects, leaving the program as a wealth transfer one instead of an investment as it's billed. Economist Walter Williams explains, "What the Treasury Department does is give the Social Security Trust Fund non-marketable 'special issue government securities' that are simply bookkeeping entries that are IOUs."

Now that benefits paid exceed taxes collected, the problem has become acute. According to the Social Security board of trustees, in 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree; the current ratio of three workers to every retiree is unsustainable. Strictly speaking, Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme, in part because it's not against the law. Indeed, it is the law. (Try not paying payroll taxes -- a.k.a., "investing" in the system.) But it is structured exactly like a Ponzi scheme, and it will eventually fail for the same reasons.

Of the gap between Social Security taxes collected and benefits paid out, The Wall Street Journal's William Galston writes, "To close that gap while maintaining scheduled benefits, we would need to enact an immediate increase in the payroll tax rate from 12.4% to 15.9%. For workers earning $50,000 a year, that would mean a tax increase of $900, nearly 2% of gross income. And employers would have to match it. For workers making the maximum now subject to payroll taxes (a bit under $120,000), taxes would rise by $2,100."

If the income cap were lifted, workers at higher incomes would face an even more staggering tax increase. And yet as it stands, the payroll tax is regressive in that it hits lower income families disproportionately. If the income cap were doubled, it still wouldn't fix the problem. Galston notes, "One might imagine that such a sizable increase in covered earnings would be enough to stabilize the system for the long term. In fact, the CBO calculates, it would reduce the imbalance by only 30%. Indeed, eliminating the cap and taxing all earnings would solve just 45% of the problem."

Meanwhile, the expected return on the 12.4% in Social Security withholding from our income is practically criminal. Consider the potential return of investing 12.4% of a typical middle class income in indexed mutual funds, where decent investments would yield perhaps multiple millions of dollars over 30 years. Over a retirement span of 20 years or so, annual withdrawals could be six figures while still leaving a good chunk of change making money.

Compared to that, Social Security looks like the poorest investment ever concocted. In fact, from that perspective, Social Security is stealing our money by mandating that it do something for us in a worse way than we can ourselves.

Or put it another way. Financial advisers often recommend putting 10% to 15% of your income toward "retirement" (whatever that means to you). The potential return on that 15% over 30 years is fantastic. Unfortunately, Social Security is already taking over 12%, while giving us miserable returns. So for savers, Social Security is costing us significant returns that we could have realized but won't. What a "safety net."

In spite of the facts, Social Security has always been one of the most popular programs the federal government runs, and the overwhelming choice of voters is to do nothing to fix it -- let alone returning to the constitutional norm of the federal government staying out of your retirement. So we understand politicians desperate for votes not wanting to touch this beloved system. But Social Security is built on a half-truth at best, and it's unsustainable.

114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'Real News' sites on: July 17, 2014, 12:53:26 PM

Please post on the "Rants" thread!
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury replies to our Pat on: July 17, 2014, 12:45:03 PM

FWIW, here is Wesbury's take on the June numbers:

Housing Starts Declined 9.3% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/17/2014

Housing starts declined 9.3% in June to a 0.893 million annual rate, coming in well below the consensus expected 1.020 million. Starts are up 7.5% versus a year ago.
The decline in starts in June was due to a drop in both single-family and multi-family units. In the past year, single-family starts are down 4.3% while multi-family starts are up 38.3%.

Starts in May fell in the South, but rose in the Midwest, Northeast, and the West.

New building permits declined 4.2% in June to a 963,000 annual rate, coming in below the consensus expected 1.035 million pace. Compared to a year ago, permits for single-units are up 0.6% while permits for multi-family homes are up 6.8%.

Implications: Housing starts fell substantially in June, with declines in both single-family and multi-family starts. However, don’t read too much into the drop in the headline number. Starts data tend to be very volatile from month-to-month and last month housing starts dropped 29.6% in the South, the steepest decline ever for any single month in at least the last 50 years for that key region. But, starts increased in all other regions of the country. To find the underlining trend and get rid of monthly volatility we look at the 12-month moving average, which just hit its highest level since October 2008. And, even though starts fell, the total number of homes under construction, (started, but not yet finished) increased 1.1% in June and are up 20.5% versus a year ago. The one conclusion we can make from today’s numbers is that multi-family construction is taking the clear lead in the housing recovery. Single-family starts have been essentially flat for almost the past two years, while the trend in multi-family units has been up (although volatile). In the past year, 35% of all housing starts have been for multi-unit buildings, the most since the mid-1980s, when the last wave of Baby Boomers was leaving college. From a direct GDP perspective, the construction of multi-family homes adds less, per unit, to the economy than single-family homes. However, home building is still a positive for real GDP growth and we expect that trend to continue. Based on population growth and “scrappage,” housing starts will eventually rise to about 1.5 million units per year (probably around the end of 2015). Although building permits declined in June, it was all due to the volatile multi-family sector; single-family permits rose 2.6%. We expect a rebound in building permits next month. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance declined 3,000 to 302,000. Continuing claims for jobless benefits dropped 79,000 to 2.51 million. It’s early, but plugging these figures into our models suggests a nonfarm payroll gain of 206,000 in July, another solid month.
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Senators will be citizens of "the federal town" more than home state on: July 17, 2014, 11:40:38 AM

"Those gentlemen, who will be elected senators, will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of your state." --George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen Cruz calls for language in bill to stop mass amnesty on: July 17, 2014, 11:26:46 AM
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberal fascism not working in CA on: July 17, 2014, 10:58:08 AM
second post
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PoTH: Chinese economy looking shaky on: July 17, 2014, 10:52:08 AM 
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Free Market Works in Oklahoma on: July 17, 2014, 10:45:46 AM
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: July 17, 2014, 10:42:17 AM
I recently read an article in Foreign Affairs magazine (it is out in my truck so I do not have the exact name handy) but it spoke of a number of trends.  IIRC it spoke of

a) ideas plus cheap labor e.g. Apple's strategy of "Conceived in America, assembled in China". 
b) With globalization, this undermines Americans who work in sectors of the economy where they have to compete with foreign labor
c) Capital/automation-- a trend which threatens cheap labor, especially when labor seeks more money. 
d) digitization of capital: a trend which threatens the returns on capital-- the marginal cost of an additional unit of software is essentially zero.

So, who wins?  Those who come up with the ideas, the first movers.  The article called the dynamic a Pareto Power Rule or something like that and said that the dynamic definitely led to increasing income inequality.

My point here is that on top of the hideous costs of the fascist economic model currently being applied, there are ALSO deep underlying trends which which present deep questions that must be answered. 

The first step is to identify them.
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June Indsutrial Production on: July 16, 2014, 06:20:07 PM
Industrial Production Rose 0.2% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/16/2014

Industrial production rose 0.2% in June, coming in slightly below the consensus expected gain of 0.3%. Production is up 4.3% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, increased 0.1% in June. Auto production declined 0.3% in June while non-auto manufacturing rose 0.2%. Auto production is up 6.8% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing is up 3.2%.

The production of high-tech equipment increased 0.3% in June and is up 6.4% versus a year ago.

Overall capacity utilization was unchanged at 79.1% in June. Manufacturing capacity declined to 77.1% in June from 77.2% in May.  (Back when I was in the University in the mid 70s, these numbers would have been considered as implying that inefficient capacity was starting to be used, thus implying impending inflationary pressures-- Marc)

Implications: A Plow Horse report out of the industrial sector today. Industrial production rose a tepid 0.2% in June, coming in slightly below consensus expectations. But, with the June report, we now have data for all of the second quarter, when production grew at a 5.5% annual rate, the fastest quarter of growth in almost four years. Industrial production is up 4.3% from a year ago while manufacturing output is up 3.6%. We expect continued robust growth in the industrial sector in the months ahead. The housing recovery is still young and both businesses and consumers are in a financial position to ramp up investment and the consumption of big-ticket items, like appliances. In particular, note that the output of high-tech equipment is up 6.4% from a year ago and up at a 11.6% annual rate in the past three months, signaling companies’ willingness to upgrade aging equipment from prior years. Capacity utilization now stands at 79.1% in June, and higher than the average of 78.9% over the past twenty years. Further gains in production in the year ahead will push capacity use higher, which means companies will have an increasing incentive to build out plants and equipment. Meanwhile, corporate profits and cash on the balance sheet are close to record highs, showing that companies have the ability to make these investments. In other news today, the NAHB index, which measures confidence among home builders, jumped 4 points to 53 in July, the best reading since January. Looks like a broad pick-up in both sales and foot traffic around the country.
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US escalates sanctions on: July 16, 2014, 06:12:43 PM
U.S. Escalates Sanctions Against Russia
President Obama escalated sanctions against Russia on Wednesday by targeting a series of large banks and energy and defense firms in what officials described as the most punishing measures to date for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.
While the latest moves do not cut off entire sectors of the Russian economy, as threatened in the past, the administration’s actions go significantly further than the financial and travel limits imposed so far on several dozen individuals and their businesses. The new measures will severely restrict access to American debt markets for the targeted companies.
The moves were coordinated with European leaders, who were meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to consider their own package of penalties against Russia. The Europeans declined to go as far as the United States, instead focusing on a plan to block loans for new projects in Russia by European investment and development banks.

124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / June PPI on: July 16, 2014, 06:08:22 PM
The Producer Price Index Rose 0.4% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/16/2014

The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.4% in June, coming in above the consensus expected increase of 0.2%. Producer prices are up 1.9% versus a year ago.
The increase in producer prices was due to both services, up 0.3%, and goods, up 0.5%

In the past year, prices for service are up 1.9% while goods prices are up 2.1%. Private capital equipment prices were flat in June but are up 1.5% in the past year.
Prices for intermediate processed goods rose 0.4% June, and are up 1.5% versus a year ago. Prices for intermediate unprocessed goods declined 0.9% in June, but are up 4.2% versus a year ago.

Implications: The volatility in producer prices continues as we reach the half way mark for 2014, but the underlying trend points to some acceleration in inflation. Following a large jump in April and dip in May, producer prices rose 0.4% in June, more than making up for last month’s decline. The gains in producer prices were broad based, with both goods and service prices moving higher. The rise in the final demand goods index was nearly all due to energy, which rose 2.1% in June. Excluding food and energy, goods prices rose 0.1%. Through the first six months of the year, producer prices are up at a 2.8% annual rate, well above the 1.1% rate over the same period last year. The acceleration is most prevalent in prices for goods, which account for nearly 35% of the total index. Goods prices are up 2.1% in the past year but have climbed at a 3.4% annual rate so far in 2014. By contrast, services are up 1.9% from a year ago and have climbed at a 2.4% rate in the past six months. Prices further back in the production pipeline (intermediate demand) do not yet confirm a continued acceleration in inflation. Prices for processed goods are up at a 1.4% annual rate in the past three months, nearly identical to the 1.5% gain over the past year. Prices for unprocessed goods are down at a 2.1% annual rate in the past three months versus a 4.2% gain from a year ago. Taken as a whole, the trend in producer price inflation is hovering around 2%. Given loose monetary policy, this trend will likely move higher in the year ahead. If anything, the Federal Reserve should be tapering quantitative easing faster than it already is. We expect the Federal Reserve to start raising short-term rates in the first half of 2015, not the second half as many now expect.
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Jewish State in a morally sick world on: July 16, 2014, 10:28:17 AM
second post
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL's 52 howitzers on: July 16, 2014, 10:12:23 AM
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: How to spark another great moderation on: July 16, 2014, 08:43:13 AM
How to Spark Another 'Great Moderation'
A new House bill would encourage the Fed to abide by monetary policy rules.
John B. Taylor
July 15, 2014 8:07 p.m. ET

Sound money and free markets go hand in hand. In 1776, Adam Smith wrote of the importance of rules for "a well-regulated paper-money" in "The Wealth of Nations." In 1962, Milton Friedman made the chapter "Control of Money," with its rationale for monetary rules, a centerpiece of "Capitalism and Freedom." In the 1980s, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan made sound money principles a key part of their market-based reform platforms.

The reason is clear: Economic crises and slow economic growth, as in the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Inflation of the 1970s, could be traced to deviations from sound rules-based monetary policy. That common- sense finding still holds.

When monetary policy became more rules-based during the 1980s, 1990s and until recently, the economy improved and we got what economists call the Great Moderation of strong economic growth with declining unemployment and inflation during those same years. When policy became more ad hoc, interventionist and discretionary during the past decade, the economy deteriorated and we got a financial crisis, a Great Recession, and a not-so-great recovery.

So as Americans begin to diagnose the poor economic performance of recent years and look for remedies that rely more on markets, they are again looking to monetary reform. A welcome example is the Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act, just introduced in the House.
Enlarge Image

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in her Senate testimony on Tuesday. Getty Images

Its first main section "Requirements for Policy Rules for the Fed" would require that the Federal Reserve submit to Congress and the American people a rule or strategy for how the Fed's policy instrument, such as the federal-funds rate, would change in a systematic way in response to changes in inflation, real GDP or other inputs. The bill was the subject of a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen was asked about its requirements Tuesday during her testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. It ought to be the main subject when she testifies Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee.

According to the legislation, the Fed, not Congress, would choose the rule and how to describe it. But if the Fed deviated from its rule, then the chair of the Fed would have to "testify before the appropriate congressional committees as to why the [rule] is not in compliance." The rule would have to be consistent with the setting of the actual federal-funds rate at the time of the submission. The legislation also creates a transparent process for accountability: The U.S. comptroller general would be responsible for determining whether or not the "Directive Policy Rule" was in compliance with the law and report its finding to Congress.

The legislation provides flexibility. It does not require that the Fed hold any instrument of policy fixed, but rather that it make adjustments in a systematic and predictable way. It allows the Fed to serve as lender of last resort or take appropriate actions to provide liquidity in a crisis. Moreover, the legislation even allows for the Fed to change its rule or deviate from it if the Fed policy makers decide that is necessary. As stated in the act: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require that the plans with respect to the systematic quantitative adjustment of the Policy Instrument Target be implemented if the Federal Open Market Committee determines that such plans cannot or should not be achieved due to changing market conditions." But "Upon determining that plans . . . cannot or should not be achieved, the Federal Open Market Committee shall submit an explanation for that determination and an updated version of the Directive Policy Rule."

In the interests of clarity, the legislation also specifies a "Reference Policy Rule," to which the Fed must compare its policy rule. The reference policy rule, to quote from the legislation, "means a calculation of the nominal Federal funds rate as equal to the sum of the following: (A) The rate of inflation over the previous four quarters. (B) One-half of the percentage deviation of the real GDP from an estimate of potential GDP. (C) One-half of the difference between the rate of inflation over the previous four quarters and two [percent]. (D) Two [percent]."

In monetary and financial circles this rule is known as the Taylor Rule, due to a proposal I made in 1992, and researchers routinely compare any policy rule they are considering to this rule. It is thus a straightforward task for the Fed. Many at the Fed already make such comparisons, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

Some will object to the legislation, including some at the Fed. But there is nothing partisan about rules-based monetary policy, and there is a clear precedent for congressional oversight. The Federal Reserve Act previously required that the Fed report the ranges for the future growth of the money supply, but these requirements were removed from the law in 2000. The proposed legislation fills that void.

Some will say that the legislation would destroy central-bank independence. But since the Fed chooses its own rule, its independence is maintained. The purpose of the act is to prevent the damaging departures from rules-based policy, which central-bank independence obviously has not prevented.

Based on writings, speeches and publicly released transcripts of meetings, we know that many at the Fed favor a more rules-based policy. Constructive comments from the Fed would undoubtedly improve the legislation, but if it were passed into law as is, economic performance would improve greatly.

The Federal Reserve Accountability and Transparency Act limits discretion and excessive intervention by our independent central bank, as its name implies, in a transparent and accountable way. It thereby meets Milton Friedman's goal of "legislating rules for the conduct of monetary policy that will have the effect of enabling the public to exercise control over monetary policy through its political authorities, while at the same time . . . prevent[ing] monetary policy from being subject to the day-by-day whim of political authorities."

Mr. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, served as Treasury undersecretary for international affairs from 2001 to 2005.
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: July 16, 2014, 05:02:34 AM
second post
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 16, 2014, 04:56:47 AM

Egyptian media certainly is not free, but this is interesting nonetheless:
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill Maher surprises on: July 16, 2014, 04:32:22 AM
When he first came on the scene he was more capable of this much more often, but still quite nice to see he still has it on occasion.
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: baseball on: July 16, 2014, 04:22:20 AM
At the gym yesterday shared the squat rack with Brandon Hayes (not 100% sure of the last name) of the Chicago White Sox.  Said he had played catcher, but had just been moved to third base.
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Joseph Story, Commentaries, 1833; Rush on Rule of Law, 1788 on: July 16, 2014, 12:17:53 AM
"Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833

"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community." --Benjamin Rush, Letter to David Ramsay, 1788
133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: July 15, 2014, 10:21:50 PM
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprise! Hamas leaders getting rich on: July 15, 2014, 06:33:31 PM,7340,L-4543634,00.html
135  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / PAN's status in jeopardy?!? on: July 15, 2014, 06:10:50 PM
15 July 2014
MEXICO – Audit puts PAN party’s status at risk

National Electoral Institute (INE) data released on 11 July 2014 from June shows that the National Action Party (PAN) has just 222,928 members, after discovering that 48,704 registrations were duplicates. This puts PAN at risk of losing its status as a national political party, as electoral law dictates that a recognized national political party have a minimum number of members equivalent to 0.26 percent of the population, or approximately 219,608 citizens. The INE will now crosscheck the registrations of the other political parties and, if necessary, request that citizens express their final preference.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PAN's status in jeopardy?!? on: July 15, 2014, 06:10:20 PM
15 July 2014
MEXICO – Audit puts PAN party’s status at risk

National Electoral Institute (INE) data released on 11 July 2014 from June shows that the National Action Party (PAN) has just 222,928 members, after discovering that 48,704 registrations were duplicates. This puts PAN at risk of losing its status as a national political party, as electoral law dictates that a recognized national political party have a minimum number of members equivalent to 0.26 percent of the population, or approximately 219,608 citizens. The INE will now crosscheck the registrations of the other political parties and, if necessary, request that citizens express their final preference.
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another crashed hard drive destroyed?!? on: July 15, 2014, 12:34:20 PM
Second post
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Sessions warns Obama plans to pardon illegals on: July 15, 2014, 12:29:29 PM
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Sessions warns Obama plans to pardon illegals on: July 15, 2014, 12:28:42 PM
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gilder: Do you pass the Israel test? on: July 15, 2014, 08:33:42 AM
Third post of the day:
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: July 15, 2014, 08:30:21 AM
At 88 minutes it has taken me a while to get to this.  I'm finally starting on it now.

142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buzz Aldrin: We are fuct on: July 15, 2014, 08:24:37 AM
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 15, 2014, 08:18:18 AM
second post of day

Click here to watch: Hamas Say it’s Leading Gazans to Their Death

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas’s chief spokesman in Gaza, has a rather unfortunate Freudian slip, accidentally declaring that Hamas is leading the Palestinians to their death. “We aren’t leading our people today to destruction. We are leading our people to death…I mean to confrontation with this occupier,” he says on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV. As Hamas faces a growing chorus of criticism, including from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, that it has dragged Gaza into violent confrontation for no discernible reason, Abu Zuhri’s efforts to deflect the criticism seem to be going rather poorly. Now Hamas says the video was fabricated (link in Arabic), and the Hamas spokesman’s voice was a voiceover. Sami Abu Zuhri is the same spokesman who urged Gazans to serve as human shields against Israeli airstrikes.

Watch Here

Israel Radio’s Gal Berger reports on Twitter that some Arab voices are expressing anger at Hamas leaders, especially those living overseas who are urging and ordering continued rocket fire on Israel without suffering the consequences of Israeli strikes being felt by ordinary Gazans. This tweet reads: “A website affiliated with Hamas was hacked and pictures were uploaded showing Khaled Mashaal sprinkling olive oil” — with the unspoken implication: “while Gaza burns.” Berger quotes a caption accompanying the photo: “This is the true face of Hamas’s leadership.” In this tweet, Berger quotes an Egyptian journalist, Ahmed Moussa, bitterly complaining about the relative comfort in which Mashaal and Hamas’s former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh are weathering the conflict. “Here — this is their jihad,” Moussa writes, according to Berger.

Source: Times of Israel
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: July 15, 2014, 08:16:25 AM
What if "Potential" is Just 1.5%? To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/14/2014

A key ingredient of monetary policy is the estimate of “potential real GDP growth” – how fast the economy should expand. The Federal Reserve thinks potential is about 2¼% per year. Using this, the Fed estimates GDP is about 8.5% below potential and monetary policy should remain easy.

But what if the Fed is wrong? What if bad policy (tax hikes, spending, and regulation), which started even before the Panic of 2008, but got worse afterward, cut potential to 1.5%?

To clarify, we’re not using the word “potential” as a true, inviolable, speed limit. Like a rusty old Corvette, we believe that if it were fixed up (with pro-growth policies), the economy could grow a lot faster.

We reject the theory of the “new normal.” Slow growth isn’t a natural aftermath of a financial crisis. If anything, it’s the “new ab-normal.” Anti-growth government policies
have hurt the economy and caused higher unemployment.

Looking back at historical data suggests potential GDP growth may have slowed to about 1.5% around a decade ago (see chart here).

At first no one noticed. Excessively accommodative Fed policy and other government stimulus created a bubble in housing – which pushed the economy above its potential back in 2007. Then the Panic of 2008 took it back below its potential, but not as far as most thought.

Since then, real GDP has grown faster than 1.5%. So, instead of being 8.5% below potential as many at the Fed think, the economy may very well be operating at a level close to its true potential given current policies.

We are not yet 100% convinced by this argument, but it explains some perplexing things. First, it helps explain why the “Plow Horse Economy” hasn’t moved faster. It doesn’t matter how many steroids the Fed feeds the horse, it just isn’t going to run like a thoroughbred.

Second, it doesn’t mean growth won’t accelerate. For example, we may see 3% real GDP growth later this year, but any move to 4% growth, or above, is highly unlikely.

Third, the CPI is up at a 2.6% annual rate in the first five months of 2014 versus 1.1% in the same period in 2013, even though real GDP fell in Q1.

Fourth, with growth slow, and the Fed holding short-term rates down artificially, longer-term rates have been held down. If real GDP growth averages 1.5% in the long run and markets expect that to continue, the 10-year Treasury yield should hold at a lower level than would have been the case in an economy with higher potential – say, during the 1994-2004 period. So, as long as the Fed keeps inflation at 2-2.5%, a 10-year of 3.75% is a better long-term forecast than 4.5%.

A lower potential growth rate slows increases in standards of living, but doesn’t curtail new innovation and the profits that come from that. So, if you’re wondering what happened to the middle class or why wages aren’t growing rapidly while stocks are, look no further than slower potential growth.

And, there is only one way to improve it. Get better fiscal policies and stop counting on the Fed.
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: "A restless president weary of the obligations of the White House" on: July 15, 2014, 08:05:41 AM
The amount and nature of the missing and suppressed documentation about the man's past is deeply disconcerting.

And now that he has the job, apparently it bores him. Here's this from today's Pravda On The Hudson:

At Dinner Tables, a Restless Obama Finds an Intellectual Escape
JULY 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Obama had just disembarked from Air Force One and was still on the tarmac in Rome when he turned to his host, John R. Phillips, the American ambassador to Italy, with an unexpected request: How about a dinner party tomorrow night?

Over the next 24 hours, the startled Mr. Phillips and his wife, the former Obama aide Linda Douglass, scrambled to gather some of Italy’s intellettuali.

The architect Renzo Piano flew in from Genoa. The particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti arrived from Geneva. John Elkann, the chairman of Fiat and an owner of the Italian soccer club Juventus, came, too, as did his sister, Ginevra, a film director. Over a 2006 Brunello, grilled rib-eye and three pasta dishes — cacio e pepe, all’arrabbiata and Bolognese — at Villa Taverna, the 15th-century manor that serves as the ambassador’s residence, the group talked until close to midnight about “the importance of understanding science, the future of the universe, how sports brings people together, and many other things,” Ms. Douglass said.

In a summer when the president is traveling across the country meeting with ordinary Americans under highly choreographed conditions, the Rome dinner shows another side of Mr. Obama. As one of an increasing number of late-night dinners in his second term, it offers a glimpse into a president who prefers intellectuals to politicians, and into the rarefied company Mr. Obama may keep after he leaves the White House.

Sometimes stretching into the small hours of the morning, the dinners reflect a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House and less concerned about the appearance of partying with the rich and celebrated. Freewheeling, with conversation touching on art, architecture and literature, the gatherings are a world away from the stilted meals Mr. Obama had last year with Senate Republican leaders at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.

As Mr. Obama once said about the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky: “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”

Valerie Jarrett, the White House senior adviser, who has been asked by the president to organize some of the dinners, was more diplomatic. The president, she told reporters recently, “could talk to the same people all day long, every day, and so he has to make a deliberate effort to expand that.”

“It keeps life interesting,” she added. “It keeps him fresh. It gives him new ideas to think about.”

Bill Clinton was a social animal as president, as he and Hillary Rodham Clinton kept up a steady round of parties. For Mr. Obama, the late-night gatherings are a new development. Although dinner at 6:30 with his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters has long been sacrosanct, the president recently said that as Malia, 16, and Sasha, 13, grew up and went out more with friends, he was freer to fill his own social calendar. He joked soon after his re-election that he was getting “lonely in this big house,” and that he might soon be calling around for company.

One Saturday night in May, Mr. Obama was up well past midnight at the White House for a dinner that included Ken Burns, the documentary filmmaker, and his wife, Julie; Anne Wojcicki, the chief executive and a co-founder of the personal genome testing company 23andMe, who brought her sister, Susan, the chief executive of YouTube; and Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic donor. Mrs. Obama was also there, but she was not on the trip to Rome. The dinner there was first reported by Politico.

Previous dinners at the White House have drawn varied celebrities, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Morgan Freeman and Bono. Many of the guests — including the Smiths and Mr. Freeman, as well as Anne Wojcicki — have been financial supporters of Mr. Obama’s campaigns.

In Rome in March, Mr. Piano said, the president seemed happy to talk about something other than politics and current events. “I think he was refreshed to sit down in a beautiful place, with good food, and talking with serenity about important things,” Mr. Piano said. He recalled that Mr. Obama, who once had dreams of becoming an architect, had many questions about Mr. Piano’s work.

“It was a real curiosity of a real man who was trying to explore how things happen,” Mr. Piano said.

The dinners often carry over into Mr. Obama’s day job — and his fund-raising. At a White House meeting on working families last month, Mr. Obama included Ms. Wojcicki — who has two young children with her husband, the Google co-founder Sergey Brin, from whom she is separated — in a discussion of workplace policies with other chief executives. Less than two weeks before, Ms. Wojcicki hosted a technology forum and fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee at her home in California, which was attended by Mr. Obama and 25 guests who paid $34,200 each.

In Paris last month, Mr. Obama went to another dinner, or rather a second dinner in one evening. After he dined officially with President François Hollande at Le Chiberta, a Michelin-starred restaurant off the Champs-Élysées, he joined friends at the nearby Restaurant Helen for more than two hours. The group included Laurent Delanney, a friend from Mr. Obama’s college days who is the European chief executive of the ATP World Tour, the professional tennis organization, as well as Ms. Jarrett and Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser. Mrs. Obama was not on the Paris trip.

Guests at the dinners are typically supporters of the president and sympathetic to his political views, but not always. At the dinner in Rome, one guest was Italo Zanzi, the American-born chief executive of A. S. Roma, another top Italian soccer team. Mr. Zanzi was a Republican candidate for Congress in his native New York in 2006, and in 2008 he contributed to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival.

During his own campaign, Mr. Zanzi highlighted his opposition to legislation granting citizenship to illegal immigrants, and he advocated random checks by the police to deport those without legal status.

If there was any tension at the dinner, it was not obvious. Ms. Douglass said Mr. Obama had laughed as Mr. Zanzi and Mr. Elkann, of the Juventus soccer club, ribbed each other about their sports rivalry.

“Clearly enough, he was happy to stay, and he spent a long time,” Mr. Piano said of the president. There was no talk of politics, he said, but Mr. Obama seemed to enjoy the back-and-forth. “He is a curious man, and even the president of America is sometimes struggling to explore, to understand, to search.”

In Paris, the president was up again until nearly midnight enjoying, among other things, Drappier Champagne.

“Bonsoir,” Mr. Obama said as he entered the small Restaurant Helen, according to Frédéric Pescatori, an investment manager who was dining next to the president’s party. Mr. Pescatori added that the president “seemed quite relaxed and glad to be with friends, without stress.”
146  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Zapata's Howl on: July 15, 2014, 12:28:49 AM
I needed this tonight , , ,
147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tin foil or smoke? on: July 14, 2014, 09:16:35 PM

GM, you are our point man for assessing this sort of thing-- tin foil or smoke?
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 14, 2014, 09:12:03 PM
Agreed.  Many of my friends have worked with them and speak well of them.  They have proven themselves over many decades.
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palestinian UN rep admits crimes against humanity on: July 14, 2014, 09:09:45 PM

Click here to watch: ‘Palestinian’ UN rep Admits Gaza Rockets ‘a Crime Against Humanity’

The Arab Palestinian representative to the UN Human Rights Council says every rocket and mortar fired from Gaza toward Israel is a “crime against humanity.” Speaking to Palestinian TV on the possible risks involved if Palestinians leaders ask to join the International Criminal Court, Ambassador Ibrahim Kraishi says the “Palestinian weakness” in terms of international law is the indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israel. “The missiles that are now being launched against Israel, each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets,” says Kraishi during the interview.

Watch Here

The ambassador says that by contrast, Israel’s actions follows legal procedures, because the IDF warns Gazan civilians to leave sites and areas before they are bombed. “Many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israelis warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment. In such a case, if someone is killed, the law considers it a mistake rather than an intentional killing because [the Israelis] followed the legal procedures.” “As for the missiles launched from our side, we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about the operations we carry out,” he says. Kraishi also says the “settlements [in the West Bank], the Judaization [of Jerusalem], the checkpoints, the arrests, and so on” are also considered “war crimes” under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Source: Times of Israel
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Minutemen returning to the border? on: July 14, 2014, 09:01:14 PM
Are these guys clowns, patriots, or both?
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